Drama Pilot Production Migrating Out of L.A.


LOS ANGELES: While Los Angeles continues to be the most popular location for shooting comedy pilots, dramas have been lured away by financial incentives and production infrastructure in other cities, according to a new report from FilmL.A.

During the last 2011-12 development cycle, 152 broadcast and cable pilots were produced in total, making it the second most productive year on record. Of those 152 pilots, 93 were filmed in the Los Angeles region. This ranks as the second largest annual tally in Los Angeles history, with five more projects than the previous cycle and just nine fewer than were done in the peak year of 2004-05.

The city has maintained its dominance in comedy production. In the 2011-12 season, Los Angeles held around 91 percent of all TV comedy pilots shot. During the last three development cycles, L.A.’s share of comedy pilots has remained between 82 percent and 92 percent of all projects. Factors exerting their greatest pull include Los Angeles’s local talent base, the proficiency of the local crews and the availability of audience-rated soundstages.

Drama projects, however, continue to leave the city. In the last development cycle, just 29 percent of all TV drama pilots were shot in the area. During the last three cycles, drama pilots were filmed outside of the L.A. region by a ratio of more than 2-to-1. The availability of financial production incentives and production infrastructure are key factors influencing where pilot producers choose to film. Some form of production incentive was available in every one of the non-California locations used during the 2011-12 development cycle. Drama producers use these incentives to offset the increased cost of long-distance production and to afford the high-end production values. For the first time in FilmL.A.’s ongoing study, Los Angeles is heading into the fall season with less than 50 percent of the network screen time devoted to prime-time scripted drama.

We think L.A. is settling into a new normal,” said Paul Audley, FilmL.A.’s president. “Without a more competitive California tax incentive program, Los Angeles will find it hard to increase its share of total TV drama production.”

“Of course, having comedies made in town is a boon for L.A.,” Audley continued. “It leaves us vulnerable, though. The comedy genre is cyclical and there’s little to prevent single-camera comedies from following dramas out-of-state. Our economy would be well-served were the region to attract a more diversified slate of productions.”